Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Berlin by Wheelchair

A family visitor came to stay with us this Christmas who needs a bit of help to get around and so we hired a wheelchair for her for the week.

This was quite easy to arrange. We registered at this website Rollstuhlverleih in Berlin and easily found a wheelchair hire company called Rolli King Berlin

Wheelchair hire for a week cost just 25€ + 5€ for final cleaning costs, and a refundable 100€ deposit. The wheelchair they provided was solid without being too heavy to push, and after a bit of practice easy to use and fold up when not in use.

You could also try the Berlin Red Cross, the Deutsches Rotes Kreuz.

We found getting around Berlin a bit of a hassle. S-Bahn and U-Bahn stations in particular do not always have a lift between platform and street-level, and where they do, they are sometimes out of order.

There are also a paucity of drop-kerbs at road-crossings. With a wheelchair, even the smallest kerb height can be a problem to negotiate, especially if you also have an eye on the grüne Ampelmännchen (green man on Berlin pedestrian crossings) turning red on a busy road. And Berlin cobbled streets and pavements might look quaint, but they are bone-shakers for the wheelchair user.

On the plus side, there are usually concessionary prices for wheelchair users at most tourist attractions such as museums and galleries, and the designated wheelchair pusher can often be allowed in free.

All-in-all we were glad that we had hired a wheelchair for our visitor for the week; we got to places that she just couldn't have managed on her own. Even to the top of the Reichstagskuppel - Mensch, that is one steep and dizzying ramp! But I think I would find it very difficult to be a permanent wheelchair user in Berlin and have to rely on one to get around.

Action is needed! More drop-kerbs are needed! More wheelchair ramps are needed! Even the Berliner Dom doesn't have a ramp up its steep stone steps, and you have to call for a service lift around the side to gain access (that's if the staff hear you ringing the buzzer - they didn't when we went to a concert Christmas Day). Information about 'Barrierefreiheit' (accessibility for all) can be found here.

Here is a photo from the archives of the wonderful Simba, giving my Father-in-law's wheelchair a test!

Simbi in a wheelchair

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